“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly” – Richard Bach
Last Saturday, February 28, 2015, the world lost Oren Miller, a soul generated by love.
I was never blessed with the opportunity to meet Oren in the flesh, but in today’s age of communication technology, that fact is nearly moot. It was shortly after another tragedy, that of the Sandy Hook school shooting, that Oren greeted me with virtual open arms, into the fold of the Dad Bloggers community on Facebook. Back then, we were just a few hundred guys who wanted to promote the virtues of fatherhood and to advocate for the right of men to be a dad and all that being a dad entails.
Today, we have grown to a group of over 1000 men, the majority of whom are writers, but many of whom are simply dads seeking better ways to be fathers to their children. Oren founded this group for that very purpose. I stumbled into it after the Sandy Hook tragedy inspired me to start putting my doctoral research to work, encouraging fathers to be present with their children in an effort to make tomorrow a better place for not only my children, but everyone else’s children as well.
As with most online communities, things weren’t always kittens, rainbows, and fluffy bunnies. Tempers flared from time to time, arguments grew heated, feelings were hurt, and where was Oren? Usually, he was found in the midst of things, playing peacekeeper, the voice of reason, and ultimately, mediator. Now that I think of it, Oren was like the father to our group. Not only was the group his conception, but it was his baby, and he treated it as such, through compassion, listening, unconditional love, and when needed, firm discipline.
Much of my graduate education has been in the realm of Servant Leadership, of which the most basic principles were clearly stated by its founder, Robert Greenleaf:
The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.
The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?
In reviewing this concept, I truly believe that Oren Miller was the epitome of a Servant-Leader. Despite never meeting him in person, he and I had several conversations about the nature of fatherhood, what it means to be present, to be humble, and ultimately, to love others more than ourselves.
Oren not only taught and transformed my ideas of fatherhood, he was also one of my biggest supporters. At least 1000 of my Facebook followers were a direct result of Oren posting one of my articles on Reddit, a service that I still don’t fully understand. Then, when another of my posts went viral in early 2013, he was among the first to urge others to take my advice as an example for themselves.
I’m going to miss Oren terribly. The impact he left is massive and will be felt for generations, not only for myself, but the world as a whole, having inspired more than 1000 men to be more present with their families and appreciate even the smallest of moments. Those lessons do not disappear when we die; they transform, they spread, and recreate themselves, for such goodness is infectious.
Every time I hug my children, I will feel Oren’s presence in the embrace. With every moment I spend listening to them, it will be Oren’s words encouraging me to do so. Whenever I am able to set aside something I may think is important to me personally, in favor of re-prioritizing my family to be first, it will be because Oren’s influence altered my way of thinking.
In closing, I want to state, categorically, that Oren’s commitment to serving others was his greatness, the sort of which echoes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.
Oren’s touchingly beautiful obituary: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/obituaries/bs-md-ob-oren-miller-20150302-story.html